DiMagno’s startup receives $726K NSF grant

Apr 24th, 2014 | By | Category: 2014, April 24, Issue, Research

Ground Fluor Pharmaceuticals Inc., a startup company that grew from technology developed at UNL, has won a $726,000 National Science Foundation grant to expand its research and product development.

The Phase II Small Business Innovation Research grant will fund further research and production of a positron emission tomography, or PET, agent that can be used to diagnose and manage brain tumors and potentially to diagnose many other common diseases, including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and many forms of cancer.

Ground Fluor is harnessing novel, efficient chemistry developed at UNL to produce high-purity agents used in PET scans. A common nuclear medicine imaging technique used for diagnosing and detecting certain diseases, PET relies on radiotracers to give information about the function and metabolism in the body’s organs.

Through his research at UNL, chemistry professor Stephen DiMagno developed a technique to attach the radioactive isotope fluorine-18 to different carrier molecules. The isotope enables a PET scanner to detect a compound’s metabolic fate.

In 2012, DiMagno co-founded Ground Fluor Pharmaceuticals with help from NUtech Ventures Inc., UNL’s technology commercialization affiliate. Ground Fluor holds an exclusive worldwide license for the novel chemistry.

“(Ground Fluor) was formed to translate and commercialize new tools for molecular imaging and therapy. It is gratifying to see these products progress toward the market,” DiMagno said. “We are very excited about the potential of our agents and technology to assist physicians in the diagnosis and treatment of serious diseases.”

In addition to developing new imaging agents, the company also partners with other companies to better manufacture imaging agents for nuclear medicine. Kiel Neumann, Ground Fluor’s associate director for research and development, and a UNL graduate, is leading the SBIR Phase II grant.

The company was formed after DiMagno received an NSF Innovation Corps grant in 2011. The NSF I-Corps grants are designed to help commercialize promising NSF-funded research. In 2013, the company won a $150,000 NSF Phase I SBIR grant, which was matched by a $97,500 grant from the Nebraska Department of Economic Development. Ground Fluor’s research and development facility is in Lincoln. Business offices are in Lincoln and Cambridge, Mass. Learn more at http://www.gfpharma.com.

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